Saturday, January 13, 2018

London! Part 1!

(Warning: This post will contain way too many exclamation points. Proceed with caution.)

About a year ago, we started planning a trip to London! My husband had been there before, but our two kids and I had not. We were psyched! It was great, having a whole year to look forward to it! It felt unreal to me, that we were going.

December finally came, and off we went! We spent Christmas there. It was A-MAZ-ING.

This was the view from our room.



The Admiralty Arch was right near our hotel. Bloggy friends, there was so much visible history, smack in front of our faces. I couldn't get over it.



After we arrived and had lunch at a pub, my husband and I took a walk and ended up at Buckingham Palace.


There was a throng of people, so we joined them, just for funsies. I was hoping all of the fuss was over Prince Harry, since I'm a fan. I love how he honors his mother by continuing her work, helping raise awareness about AIDS, mental health issues, the need to get rid of landmines, and other causes that were dear to her heart. Plus, he and Meghan Markle are adorbs, and they just seem like extremely good people. Don't they?! Yes, they do.

But back to Buckingham Palace! A man and a woman who were also standing in the crowd said Prince Harry (!) and Meghan Markle were in the cars that had just left! I'm pretty sure it was true because a kid who was about seven told me he saw Harry. So, you know, that's proof.

If you're reading this, Harry and Meghan--er, your Majesties? Your Royal Highnesses?--I'm hoping to be invited to your wedding. No invitation or save-the-date announcement has yet arrived for me, but it's only January and I know you're busy. Just please give me enough time to find a nice dress and some cute shoes that are also comfy, since I'm practical that way--and enough time to research how to properly address each of you, just in case our paths cross on the dance floor or by an ice sculpture or something.

Thank you.

*bowing and now curtsying* Note: I'll also research how to properly walk away after meeting royals such as yourselves on dance floors or by ice sculptures.


This photo of a British squirrel was taken the first morning we were there, mere minutes after the Hyde Park Squirrel Incident. *sigh*

Don't ask. Just. Don't.


The Tower of London!

I think the gift shop there should sell shirts that say, "I lost my head at the Tower of London." Or maybe not. Yeah, never mind. It was a tacky thought, but we'll move away from that since, after all, I'm very classy. So classy, in fact, that I may be going to a very special wedding this spring.


Our kids (who are legal adults and should probably not be called "kids" anymore, but whatever) are better photographers than we are. Way better. This is one of the photos our son took of the Tower Bridge.



One day we watched the Changing of the Guard from various vantage points. Our daughter snapped this photo from a spot near St. James's Palace.



Other pics:

Horse Guards


the ceiling of the Banqueting House, Whitehall


Jim and I on a bus tour


our daughter riding in the open half of the top of the bus - See her wa-a-ay back there?


The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens - a memorial to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband


I think Victoria is fascinating. I loved all of Kensington Palace, but the "Victoria Revealed" exhibition took my breath away. Here are some pics from Kensington Palace:

Victoria and Albert - Their real-life love story ended way too soon when Albert died at the age of 42. I wish I could go back in time and meet them.


My son took this photo. The plaque says, "24 May 1819    Princess Victoria was born in this room."

Victoria
On the wall was a quote: "My darling Albert's favorite picture"


 Albert

Look at this gown from the 18th century. (Again, I'll show my son's photo.)

The information card explained the women at court wore wide petticoats to display their wealth and status. The gown is gorgeous! Still, I wonder if it marks the first time in history when someone asked, "Does this dress make my butt look big?"


We went to Hatchards, London's oldest bookshop. They've been selling books since 1797! It's huge, but it's divided by floors so it feels cozy and lovely. It's a bookshop fit for a king--or a queen, a duke, and a prince!



Check out the Royal Warrants!

Royal Warrant:
"BY APPOINTMENT TO HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN
BOOKSELLERS"

Royal Warrants:
"BY APPOINTMENT BOOKSELLERS TO H.R.H. THE DUKE OF EDINBURGH"

"BY APPOINTMENT BOOKSELLERS TO H.R.H. THE PRINCE OF WALES"


I spotted Martha Brockenbrough's excellent novel, THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, on a shelf!



Harry Potter, of course


part of the children's section - Isn't it wonderful?

Elmer!


There was so much to see! Here's my daughter's first attempt at photographing St. Paul's Cathedral.**



This is her second attempt:



This is getting rather long, so I'll end this post by telling you about the Very Practical Souvenirs I picked up during our trip. I adore them!

Pictured: Magnetic Monarchs (magnets with the kings and queens of England from 1066 through the present day), the Six Wives of Henry VIII  Coaster Set, and a Henry VIII ornament.

**Prince Harry and Meghan, I won't misbehave at your wedding. I promise.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

SPIRIT RIDING FREE: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS by Suzanne Selfors

Suzanne Selfors recently shared some news that may make your heart giddyap and go-a-galloping--especially if you or someone you know loves horses. (*raising hand* "I do! I do!") DreamWorks asked her to write a novel based on an animated series they're producing!

The book's title is SPIRIT RIDING FREE: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS. The release date is May 2, 2017. That's in twelve days!



The blurb:

Twelve-year old Lucky Prescott craves adventure, but as a young lady of society she's only been allowed to experience adventure through books. That is, until one fateful day when Lucky, her father, and her aunt leave their neat-and-tidy city life and travel to their new home out west--the Wild West.

At first Lucky is excited, but during the long train ride to her new hometown of Miradero, she begins to worry. What if she doesn't make any new friends? Everyone in the West rides horses, but she's never been allowed to even sit on one. How can she possibly fit in? Anxious about the future, Lucky looks out the train window and sees a  majestic wild stallion. When their eyes meet, she senses a connection. But when the stallion is caught by wranglers, Lucky's heart breaks. And when she next sees the stallion, he's tied to a post, refusing to be "broken in."

SPIRIT RIDING FREE: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS is the story of a girl and a wild horse, equally out of place in a strange, new world, but equally fierce and brave. With each other to lean on, will these two free spirits be able to find a home together?


The book received a nice review from Kirkus Reviews:
"...the fresh voice and unbridled enthusiasm of both girl and horse will inspire anyone dealing with their own isolation and teasing. A wild ride that will make spirits soar."


What an exciting project! I can't wait to read it!


Click here to check out the trailer for the animated series, SPIRIT RIDING FREE! I think it looks so good!

* * *

Congratulations to the uber-talented Suzanne! Yee-haw!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Great Book Alert: THE OTHER ELIZABETH by Elsa Watson

I just read THE OTHER ELIZABETH, and I loved it!



The novel's a YA historical fiction written by my friend Elsa Watson. Elsa's been a guest at my blog before, and I'm excited to tell you about her latest book!


Here's the blurb:

Fourteen-year-old Elizabeth Tudor feels trapped. King Henry is dead, and her stepmother's new husband is dragging her into a dangerous game. When young commoner Grit Bexley arrives, Elizabeth can't help but notice how much they look alike. It doesn't take the girls long to decide to switch places. Now Grit can enjoy the luxury of the palace while Elizabeth escapes to warn her brother of impending danger to the crown. But can the princess survive the hardscrabble outside world? And can Grit make Queen Katherine believe that she's royalty? Each girl will need her wits to navigate her new world without getting caught...


THE OTHER ELIZABETH is an excellent read! It's suspenseful, fun, and a total page-turner. Elsa, a history lover (side note: and dog lover) at heart, writes gorgeous historical fiction. She quickly pulled me into young Elizabeth Tudor's world, really showing the weight that comes with royalty--figuratively and literally since those dresses were not light! And the world of a commoner like Grit? Elsa shows the harshness of that as well, and Grit is a heroine I immediately cared about and cheered for!

I've been a fan of Elsa's since I read her first book, MAID MARIAN, and I didn't know her back then. She's passionate about history and historical fiction, so I'm super happy she's writing it! Lucky us! She's a skilled researcher so, in addition to weaving an exciting story, she writes a setting that has texture, color, and life. Reading Elsa's book made me hungry for more knowledge about Elizabeth Tudor and her famous family, so I  ordered a nonfiction book about them when I finished THE OTHER ELIZABETH.

I recommend THE OTHER ELIZABETH. It's a book that's fit for a queen. Or a clever commoner.  :)

Do you read historical fiction? If so, what's a title you recommend?


* * *

If you want to buy THE OTHER ELIZABETH, it's available on Amazon!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart

I'm a huge fan of Emily Jenkins, a.k.a. E. Lockhart. I was super excited to meet her at a conference in 2011, and I heard her speak in Seattle this past fall. I've enjoyed many of her books.








WE WERE LIARS has been out since May 2014, though I only just read it. My reaction: Wow.


Here's the blurb from the flap copy:

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; 
             a passionate political boy.
A group of four friends--the Liars--
             whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

WE WERE LIARS is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
             Read it.
             And if anyone asks you how it ends, just lie.


I don't want to give anything away, so I'll be careful about what I share!

The story is intriguing and exciting--you can't help turning page after page after page. Jenkins tells us the protagonist's story using an authentic teen voice, one that matches Cadence's upbringing and experiences. It's written cleanly, and she feeds us the story at just the right pace, with just the right amount of details. Do you know when agents or editors say they, as readers, want to know they're in good hands? To me, this would be an excellent example of a book that feels that way from beginning to end.

The writing is poetic without losing its authenticity, its real teen feel. The book is written in prose, but the story has a rhythm (a cadence/Cadence? Ooh! I hadn't thought of that until now!). I love the voice, the repeated words and lines, the use of white space. It's masterfully written, and it's one of those books you want to discuss with someone else who's read it as soon as you're done!

I highly recommend WE WERE LIARS. Honest.

How about you? Have you read it? What have you been reading lately?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pepper

Last Monday, we had to say good-bye to our sweet Pepper. Our hearts are broken. We were amazingly fortunate to have her in our family. She was a cuddler and a kisser, a nurse when the kids were sick, a best friend, and a goofball. She stopped to smell the flowers and noticed airplanes in the sky. She loved cookies, car rides, sunshine, and ear rubs. Most of all, she loved the kids, her brother Thistle, Jim, and me. Pepper made our world brighter. She was a beautiful life. We love her and miss her.


Pepper
November 22, 2004 - March 20, 2017
(photo by Jordan Taylor)

February 2005

Pepper with her boy - February 2005

Pepper with her girl - February 2005

Pepper loved being a pillow for the kids. She would sometimes go into our son's room when he was asleep and nudge his pillow out of the way so she could take its place. The other dog in the photo is our beloved Jack, Pepper and Thistle's uncle.

Thistle (left) and Pepper (right) on their tenth birthday

Pepper and Thistle - May 2016

September 2016

Pepper and Thistle
(photo by Jordan Taylor)

Pepper and I in a sunbeam

Friday, February 10, 2017

EMMANUEL'S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH

I'm crazy about EMMANUEL'S DREAM: THE TRUE STORY OF EMMANUEL OFOSU YEBOAH, a picture book written by Laurie Ann Thompson and illustrated by Sean Qualls.

Schwartz & Wade/Random House, 2015


Here's the flap copy:
One person can change the world.

In Ghana, West Africa, a baby was born:
Two bright eyes blinked in the light,
two tiny fists opened and closed,
but only one strong leg kicked.

Here is the inspiring true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, who cycled an incredible four hundred miles across Ghana--with only one strong leg--to spread his powerful message: disability does not mean inability.


Yes! What an important message! Also, what an incredible book!

As anyone who's tried to write a picture book can attest, picture books, which seem so simple, are difficult to write. To be able to tell a complete story using so few words is a huge accomplishment. Add to that the required research for a well-told biography and the ability to boil it all down to a meaningful story, using language that's accessible to young readers--wow! Yet Laurie manages it skillfully. Every word feels right. Laurie pulls readers in, describing when baby Emmanuel was born. And that's just the first page! EMMANUEL'S DREAM is gorgeous, and the story is inspiring without feeling didactic.The whole book is packed with heart because of the true story of Emmanuel, Laurie's excellent words, and Sean Qualls's art. The illustrations are strikingly beautiful with light backgrounds and bold colors, and they convey so much emotion. There's story in the illustrations, and I love the illustrator's images, colors, and flavor.

EMMANUEL'S DREAM was the winner of the ALA Youth Media Awards Schneider Family Children's Book Award in 2016, and it was a Junior Library Guild selection. This page on Laurie's website shows an impressive list of the book's awards, honors, and reviews.

Laurie is the Nonfiction Coordinator and CoPAL (Published and Listed) Liaison for SCBWI Western Washington. I've known her for years through SCBWI, and she's super nice. Check out her website here.

I've just discovered Sean Qualls, and I love his artwork! These are links to his blog and website. Here is a link to a great interview with him from 2008. He talks about his background and his process.


Yesterday, bookseller Victoria Irwin and I were admiring my copy of EMMANUEL'S DREAM at Eagle Harbor Book Company, and we posed for a picture.



* * *

How about you? Do you write fiction, nonfiction, or both? What's your favorite nonfiction book for children or teens?

Saturday, December 24, 2016

My Latest Enterprises

I've been terrible about blogging, but I have an excellent excuse: my husband and I have embarked on a five-year mission.



Here's some footage from our first away mission.



We've had our rough moments, like when Jim almost assimilated with the Borg



and when I located Data--or part of him.



Overall, though, it's been a blast! (Get it? As in phaser blast? Oh, man. Sooo not funny when you have to explain it.)

Okay, okay. I'm only messing with you, obviously. That was all from a party at MoPop, the Museum of Pop Culture, in Seattle. (Go if you get the chance! We had a ton of fun looking at the exhibits!)

The real reason I haven't been blogging lately is I've been spending all of my writing efforts on my novel. I printed the whole thing in early December, before starting the current draft.

It's not yet as pretty as it needs to be. Some of the chapters have been revised three to five times, some closer to eight, and some have probably been revised twenty-five times. I can't tell you what draft this is because I don't actually know. I can, however, tell you I'm very proud of it. And that, unlike my lame phaser joke, is something I'm confident you'll all "get." I know this because you're writers, too.

I hope you all enjoy the holidays and have a joy-filled, healthy 2017! Happy creating, everyone!